Published on: 24 June 2020

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is encouraging its reservist and adult cadet volunteer staff to celebrate Armed Forces Week by wearing their uniforms to work one day - infection control and PPE requirements permitting.

Major events nationwide and locally to mark the week have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Trust will be joining in virtual and online activity to show support for our armed forces. The week launches today (June 22nd) and as well as Reserves Day on Wednesday, 24th, will focus on veterans on the 25th and cadets on the 26th, before ending with Armed Forces Day on Saturday, June 27th.  

Chief Executive Ken Bremner, who usually hosts a Reserves Day lunch, has personally written to the Trust’s employee reservists and adult cadet volunteers thanking them for all they do and expressing the hope that they will be able to wear their military uniforms during the week.

Mr Bremner said: “The UK relies heavily on the contribution made by reservists to our Armed Forces. They are integral to protecting the nation’s security at home and overseas and constantly demonstrate their worth in specific operations. Notably, they have provided invaluable support during the COVID-19 emergency. Adult cadet volunteers, in turn, do a tremendous amount of work with young people in our communities.  

“Although we are not able to gather this year for our Reserves Day lunch, it is important that the contribution of these employees who balance civilian life with a military life is not forgotten and that we acknowledge the transferrable skills that they bring from their military service into their role in the NHS.” 

Kelly Bennett is a clinical site manager at Sunderland Royal Hospital and a major with Newcastle-based 201 Field Hospital. She will be wearing her military uniform to work with pride on Reserves Day. 
She was a newly-qualified nurse at the hospital when she began her military life about 15 years ago as a reserve solider at 201 Field Hospital. Since then, she has twice been deployed to Afghanistan and is now Officer Commanding B detachment, overseeing about 80 personnel. 

She said: “Joining the Army Reserve has enriched my life in so many ways. My nursing skills have advanced, I have gained confidence in my leadership abilities and I bring the Army ethos of teamwork to my job. The Trust has supported me throughout, from my training at Sandhurst Military Academy and my deployments to Camp Bastion, to my leadership development through adventurous training schemes.” 

Karen Crammond will also be in uniform on one day during Armed Forces Week. She is Clinical Team Manager with the Trust’s Specialist Palliative Care Services in Sunderland and a captain with Durham Army Cadet Force (ACF), for which she is the medical support officer. She also served for 22 years as a reservist with 201 Field Hospital, joining in 1984 and rising from raw recruit to captain. In 2004, she completed a six-month deployment in Iraq. She retired from the Reserve in 2006 but the lure of the military proved too strong and in 2009 she joined Durham ACF where she is very much involved in the welfare of children aged 12 to 18. 

She said: “I am very proud to have served in both the ACF and as a reservist. My current involvement with the ACF is very rewarding; it gives me an opportunity to make a positive difference to young people’s lives.”   

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is a staunch Armed Forces supporter. It was the first NHS employer in the region to achieve the Ministry of Defence's Employer Recognition Gold Award - the highest badge of honour available to those that employ and support those who serve, as well as veterans, and their families. It was also among the first to sign-up to the national Step into Health initiative which recognises the transferable skills and cultural values that Armed Forces personnel have developed and how these are compatible with working in the NHS and highlights the many career opportunities available and supports them in gaining employment within the NHS. 

Earlier this year, the Trust won the 'Leading the way as an employer' category in the first-ever Step into Health Awards for its work in recruiting members of the Armed Forces community to the NHS.